Bioterrorism drill in Calif. Bay area city
By Harry Harris
OAKLAND — The East Side Club at the Coliseum was transformed Thursday into a treatment center for victims of a mock anthrax attack, with nearly 1,000 volunteers and representatives of public health and emergency response agencies from 10 counties taking part in the exercise.
The Bay Area Mass Prophylaxis Exercise tested participants' ability to respond to a scenario involving the intentional release of an aerosolized biological agent in Thursday's scenario, it was anthrax that would require a mass distribution of drugs to treat potentially thousands who might be exposed and could face death if not treated in a timely manner.
At a 12:30 p.m. media briefing a few hours into the exercise, Dr. Muntu Davis, division director of the Alameda County Public Health Department, said, "So far it's been pretty good."
Davis said one of the main goals was to make sure victims got the pills needed to combat the anthrax exposure as quickly and efficiently as possible and to screen them to make sure they did not get medication they might be allergic to.
Thursday's exercise was made up of two main components, officials said. One was testing the capacity to disseminate medications to hundreds of victims in this case, 700 civilian volunteers. The second was to test the agencies' ability to set up a warehouse of medications and to track, manage and dispense them according to needs of health jurisdictions.
Zerlyn Ladua, the Alameda County Public Health Department's emergency health preparedness coordinator, said that the exercise topped off months of planning and the continued efforts of Bay Area public health agencies "to test and develop protocols, procedures and best practices that are shared" throughout the state and nation.
Davis said an anthrax or any biohazard attack is something one hopes never happens, but by doing such exercises officials can learn the best way to distribute medications in other medical emergencies, such as a flu epidemic.
Oakland fire Lt. David Brue said the exercise was developed following guidelines established by the Department of Homeland Security's Exercise and Evaluation Program and was funded by the Bay Area Super Urban Area Security Initiative, a regional agency created in 2006.
Counties participating Thursday were Alameda, Contra Costa, San Mateo, Solano, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Napa and Sonoma, and the cities of Oakland and Berkeley.